CPGB-ML » Posts in 'Africa' category

Egypt: Economic crisis nearing tipping point

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February

Relations between Egypt’s ruling military government and the US remain fraught, as the government has barred six US ‘human rights’ workers from leaving the country. To avoid arrest, at least three of them have taken refuge in Cairo’s US embassy, while the US threatens to withhold its $1.3bn annual military aid to Egypt unless the government stands down on its objection to so-called ‘pro-democracy’ groups from abroad operating in the country.

In the meantime, the severe economic difficulties that lay behind the Arab spring uprising have continued to worsen. Unemployment stands at at least 15 percent, (but much higher among the young), half as high again as it was when the uprising started. Tourism has declined 30 percent and construction work has come to a standstill.

To avoid a devaluation of the Egyptian pound that would send food prices spiralling upwards, the Egyptian government has been spending $2bn a month in a losing battle to prop it up. According to the New York Times, foreign currency reserves have, as a result, fallen to about $10bn, from about $36bn before the revolt. Clearly this is unsustainable. (See ‘Economic crisis adds dangers on Egypt’s new political path’ by David D Kirkpatrick and Mayy El Sheikh, 24 January 2012)

Nor is the government able to raise money from Egypt’s banks to finance its expenditure, even at an interest rate of 16 percent, because the banks are fearful that the state will be unable to repay them. Another drain on its resources are energy subsidies, which cost it $15bn a year (one-fifth of all government spending), but the government cannot afford to reduce the subsidy as to do so would infuriate the Egyptian population still further.

In the circumstances, the Egyptian government has had to go back cap in hand to the IMF to ask for a $3.2bn loan – after having refused an offer of aid of $3bn only last June because it would have excessively compromised Egyptian sovereignty. In the meantime, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party controls over half the seats in Egypt’s new parliament, has pronounced itself in favour of IMF borrowing, free markets and abolishing subsidies.

With regard to relations with the IMF, the New York Times pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood’s position was a “stunning reversal after eight decades of denouncing western colonialism and Arab dependency”. The crisis is making many such organisations reveal their true colours, which can only advance the understanding of the masses.

Libya in chaos

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 4 February

Bani Walid has been retaken by Gaddafi loyalists, and there have been huge pro-Gaddafi demonstrations in Benghazi, supposedly the most pro-rebel town in Libya. At the same time, it is reported that the different tribes involved in the so-called Transitional National Government are at each other’s throats.

In the meantime, it has come out that torture is rife in the prisons run by the Transitional National Government, with Médecins Sans Frontieres withdrawing its services in protest at the fact that it was being sent prisoners for treatment after torture, purely for the purpose of making sure they didn’t die so that torture could continue as soon as they had been treated.

Egyptian masses return to Tahrir Square

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 3 December

Tahrir Square is once more open for business – the business of overthrowing dictatorships, that is.

Throughout most of November, after the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) proposed to guarantee the military budget against any scrutiny, while also giving itself the power to veto the new constitution due to be finalised next year, hundreds of thousands of people returned to Tahrir Square, erected tents and vowed to stay there until power was definitively handed over to a civilian government, for, as David Blair so graphically expressed it, “the central paradox remains: everything has changed in Egypt, except the country’s rulers”. (‘Will Egypt’s generals listen to Cairo protesters now?’, Telegraph, 22 November 2011)

The response of the authorities to these protests has been brutal. At least 41 unarmed protesters have been murdered in cold blood, with over 2,000 injured (eg, losing their eyes to rubber bullets). In one case the police have been seen dragging the dead body of a protester to a rubbish heap.

Far from intimidating, such brutality has only served to fan the flames of revolutionary fervour. The protesters are more determined than ever to save their revolution, to safeguard the honour of the Egyptian masses and get rid of the present continuers of the Mubarak regime.

They have succeeded in securing the resignation of the entire civilian cabinet, including Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, only to see the military replace him with the 78-year-old former Mubarak lieutenant and tool of the military council Kamal el-Ganzouri.

In the meantime, Egypt has held its first post-Mubarak elections and it would appear that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has emerged as the largest party. Banned under Mubarak, they are not about to defer when in power to those who were only yesterday responsible for suppressing them.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood has indicated willingness to uphold the undertakings made by Anwar Sadat to US imperialism under the Camp David accords, which includes safeguards for Israel.

If that is indeed the case, then US imperialism is as happy for the Muslim Brotherhood to run Egypt on its behalf as it previously was for the generals to do so. The only difficulty is that popular public opinion in Egypt is thoroughly opposed to the Camp David accords, and if free and fair elections are going to predominate in Egypt, all political parties hoping to get themselves elected are sooner or later going to have to make concessions to that public opinion.

The US government’s current tactic, however, is to call on the Egyptian military to hand over at the earliest to a civil administration, in an apparent show of support for the protesters. Its motivation, however, is simply to retain control of the situation.

Helen Cooper of the New York Times has correctly noted: “The Obama administration appears now to be openly hedging its bets, trying to position the United States in such a way that regardless of who comes out on top — the army or the protesters — it will still maintain some credibility, and ability, to influence the government and ensure a level of stability in Egypt, and to continue to uphold the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal, which the United States views as central to stability in the region as a whole.” (‘For US, risks in pressing Egypt to speed civilian rule’, 26 November 2011)

US military presence ramping up across Africa

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November

The autocratic government of Museveni is a vassal of US imperialism, serving the latter’s economic, political and military interests.

For instance, it supplies thousands of ‘peacekeepers’ to Somalia to prop up the unpopular US-backed regime in that country, and has opened up Uganda to foreign investment.

Interestingly the New York Times recently claimed that Museveni had stamped out the Lord’s Resistance Army, even as his government was coming under severe pressure from widespread Arab spring-style protests caused by the escalating cost of living. (‘Discontent simmers in a market as Uganda’s economy staggers’ by Josh Kron, 13 October 2011)

Yet the very next day the same newspaper reported that armed US advisers were being sent by Obama to Uganda … to help fight the Lord’s Resistance Army, which it described as “a notorious renegade group that has terrorised villagers in at least four countries with marauding bands that kill, rape, maim and kidnap with impunity … led by Joseph Kony, a self-proclaimed prophet known for ordering village massacres, recruiting prepubescent soldiers, keeping harems of child brides and mutilating opponents”! (‘Armed US advisers help fight African renegade group’ by Thom Shanker and Rick Gladstone)

This is how the imperialist media cover up the fact that the US military is being sent to protect imperialist interests in Africa – and specifically in the case of Uganda, to influence the award of oil exploration and extraction contracts and try to ensure that they do not go to China.

With this in mind, it is also important for them to prevent one of US imperialism’s most loyal puppet governments being dispatched by the mass uprisings that are taking place in Uganda – a subject on which the imperialist media are almost totally silent.

Moreover, the Lord’s Resistance Army is asserted to have been spreading mayhem in neighbouring countries too, so that although the initial deployment of US military ‘advisers’ will be in Uganda, they will also operate in South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo – centres extremely rich in oil or other precious minerals – “subject to the approval of each respective host nation”.

New government elected in Tunisia

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November

On 23 October Tunisia held its first election since the overthrow of the Ben Ali dictatorship. The election was won by the moderate Islamic party Ennahda, which combines a long history of political opposition (before Ben Ali eviscerated the party some 10 years ago) with reputed backing from the Gulf.

This finance enabled Ennahda to inundate the electorate with fliers, t-shirts and bumper stickers distributed from a smart office in downtown Tunis, to publish paperbacks in several languages setting out its policies, and to distribute bottled water to those who attend its rallies, as well as to purchase goodwill by sponsoring various charitable events. In addition, it was one of the parties strongly supported by the bourgeois media and the mosques.

In the election, on a turnout of 48.8 percent, Ennahda won 90 of the 217 seats in the Constituent Assembly, while the secular social-democratic CPR (Congress for the Republic) and Ettakatol/FDTL (Democratic Forum for Labour and Liberties), who got 30 and 21 seats respectively, are likely to join with Ennahda to form a coalition government.

Results for the left were disappointing, with the Tunisian Workers’ Communist Party (PCOT) only winning three seats. The party blamed its lack of access to the media and the mosques, which were used by its opponents not only to promote their own cause but also to spread disinformation about PCOT’s policies, in particular its stance on freedom of religion.

Kenya provides latest proxy troops for imperialism in Somalia

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November

There has been intense fighting along the Kenya-Somalia border. Kenya’s actions are intended to support Somalia’s US-backed puppet government to retain control of territory in southern Somalia, which is increasingly falling under the sway of al-Shabaab (Kenya’s security services get millions of dollars each year in training and support from the US and British governments).

On the pretext that al-Shabaab was threatening Kenya (!), hundreds of Kenyan soldiers and police officers, alongside forces from Uganda, have entered Somalia, with fighter planes and military helicopters overflying the Somali town of Dhobley and even bombing targets in the region. Essentially, they have invaded on behalf of imperialism to take the place of the Ethiopian troops who had previously been trying to subdue Somalia on imperialism’s behalf but who retired defeated. France is helping with ‘logistics’.

At the same time, western imperialism is using the drought that is is thought to be causing mass starvation in southern Somalia as an excuse to penetrate the area, supposedly to distribute aid, which it refuses to channel through the al-Shabaab authorities in control of the region. Al-Shabaab in the meantime has set up its own programme of support to people affected by the famine and is urging them to return to their homes to plant crops in readiness for the rainy season, which is expected soon.

Al-Shabaab has also warned Kenya that if its incursions continue, then reprisals would be taken. Nairobi was hit on 24 October by two grenade attacks in which one person was killed any some 23 injured, although it is claimed that these do not bear the hallmarks of an al-Shabaab attack, which would have been expected to be more sophisticated.

Egyptian caretaker government increasingly anti-popular

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 5 November

The Egyptian caretaker government is rapidly exposing itself as a true successor to Hosni Mubarak, determined to maintain itself in power by fair means or by foul – with circumstances demanding mainly the latter.

The Egyptian army was mobilised to mount violent attacks on Coptic christians as they protested at the main television building in central Cairo on 9 October. Their protest was in response to the torching of a newly-rebuilt church in the village of Marinab (Aswan) incited by a local fanatic preacher.

The protest was not only about the attacks on christians, however, but against the military government itself. The most common refrain of the protesters was “The people want to bring down the field marshal,” ie, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who has effectively stepped into Mubarak’s shoes. There were also chants of “Muslims and christians are one hand”.

The army assault resulted in 24 people dead and over 200 injured. While gangs of Islamist thugs roamed the streets looking to set upon any unarmed and defenceless christian, there were plenty of muslims who, seeing the unwarranted attack, joined the christian demonstrators in fighting back against the army.

Egyptian television, in the meantime, was fanning the flames by urging citizens to go to the defence of the army, as though it had been the Copts who had been responsible for the attack!

A few days later the army announced that it plans to remain in control of government even after the parliamentary elections that will be taking place on 28 November, with parliament playing a subordinate role, as it did under Mubarak, until a new presidential election in 2013. The only way it might get away with such an unpopular decision is if it manages to divide the Egyptian people against each other – hence the attempts to incite religious violence.

New challenge to ANC leadership in South Africa

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October

Jacob Zuma’s leadership of the ruling ANC in South Africa is being challenged by 30-year-old Julius Malema, leader of the ANC youth league.

Malema, an admirer of Robert Mugabe, Castro and Gaddafi, is calling for the expropriation of white-owned land and nationalisation of South Africa’s mines, which has, according to the Financial Times, “placed him at odds with members of the government and alarmed the business community but [has] captured the imagination of poorer black South Africans frustrated by growing inequality, lack of employment opportunities and poor services”. (‘Violent clashes outside Malema hearing’ by William Wallis and Andrew England, 1 September 2011)

The furies of private interest have descended on Malema and five other leaders of the ANC youth wing, who face a disciplinary committee on charges of sowing division within the party and bringing it into dispute by calling for regime change in neighbouring Botswana. Malema is also being investigated for fraud.

Resistance continuing in Libya

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October

Over the past month it has become clear that the supposed overthrow of the Gaddafi regime in Libya has not happened. Instead, a full-blown, nominally civil, war has been unleashed, in which a fractious, squabbling and divided minority of mainly fundamentalist extremists in alliance with Nato are fighting the vast majority of the Libyan people, who are still led by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

In that war, allegedly unleashed by Nato ‘to protect civilians’, at least 50,000 have now been killed and even more injured.

Even the bourgeois media admit to the fact that the loyalist forces are holding on to the oases of Hun and Sabha as well as the major cities Sirte and Bani Walid, in spite of the fact that both the latter have been subjected to barbarous Nato bombardment and a cruel state of siege, deprived of food, medicine, fuel and water. But still the defenders hold out, and are putting Grad multiple rocket launchers, mortars and RPG-7s to effective use against the marauders.

The New York Times encapsulated the atmosphere in describing the life of the bourgeois journalists reporting from the region:

Like dogs tearing off to retrieve imaginary sticks thrown by their masters, television crews and photographers have repeatedly rushed to the front lines to cover the fall of the holdouts, only to discover that the attackers were merely on the outskirts, and not even planning to stay there beyond dark. In some cases, as happened at least three times in the past week, they actually pushed well into the downtown areas, only to be repulsed.

The photographs produced are very picturesque — flames licking the skies from the twin barrels of the former rebels’ 30mm antiaircraft guns — but what is not as clear is that many such pictures are posed, or taken while the former rebels are doing what they seem to do best, or at least most often — firing light and heavy weapons into the sky in celebration of every victory, including imaginary ones.” (‘Anti Gaddafi forces capture, then lose, last redoubts’ by Rod Nordland, 17 September 2011)

Despite Nato’s supposed victory in Libya, it was forced on 21 September to announce a three-month extension of its bombing campaign.

Moreover, even the bourgeois media are having to admit that the so-called rebels are committing atrocities, although they are ashamed to admit either the extent or the barbarity of these, and try to excuse them as ‘revenge’ for what loyalist forces did to them.

The New York Times has admitted to the wanton destruction of homes in Tawerga, and the disappearance of men rounded up and not heard of since. The fact that rebels, for all that they are supposed to be devout muslims, are going from house to house rounding up young girls in their hundreds for rape, torture, disfigurement and agonising murder is naturally hushed up.

Meanwhile, an independent news website, mathaba.net, has reported that on 28 September a mass demonstration in support of Gaddafi took place in Tripoli, brutally suppressed by the rebels and Nato firing on the unarmed demonstrators. The website reports that the “response by the masses was ongoing throughout the day and night, with shooting in various parts of Tripoli, sending rats running, abandoning some of their check points, with Nato air force terrorists no longer knowing where to hit”.

On the same day, loyalists were able to destroy an enemy aircraft.

The following day, 29 September, there was fighting throughout Tripoli, and the 32nd Reinforced Brigade of the Armed People (known as the Khamis Brigade) is said to have destroyed the remaining Nato-rebel checkpoints. It also claims to have taken control of a building that for the past three weeks has housed the Tripoli headquarters of Nato and the CIA and been used as a command and control centre to guide the Nato ground operation in Libya. The all-green flag of the Jamahiriya (self-governing society of the people) has been hoisted above the building.

Loyalists have taken over many other parts of Tripoli, though not yet the central market area, and the green flag can be seen once again flying proudly in many districts.

Anti-Israel sentiments at an all-time high in Egypt

From the International Report delivered to the CPGB-ML’s central committee on 1 October

In Cairo, tens of thousands of demonstrators were involved in tearing down a concrete wall that had only just been built around the Israeli embassy. The wall was meant to protect the embassy from the fury of continuing demonstrations that have been taking place outside it since the killing of Egyptian military personnel in Sinai last month.

Not only did the protesters tear down the concrete wall, they also scaled the walls of the building to tear down the Israeli flag, broke into offices and tossed documents into the streets. The Egyptian army did intervene to remove protesters from the building, but they were not arrested.

On 10 September, however, in the early hours of the morning, there was a full-scale confrontation between protesters and the police, who were trying to disperse the demonstrators by the use of tear gas and rubber bullets.

Subsequently, Egypt’s ruling military council, made up entirely of Mubarak-appointed military personnel, has reimposed emergency laws curtailing freedom of the press, and have closed a TV station connected to Al Jazeera on the grounds that it had no licence.